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tv   Mosaic World News  LINKTV  April 4, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT

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of course, you know, the buddhists and the hindus and the new agers and the ramthaites and religious studies professors, and it went on and on and on. but, the guy- i talked to him for quite a bit longer than that afterwards, and you know, he just truly believes that if you don't see christianity, if you don't believe those fundamentals- in other words, doctrine interpreting myth- if you don't believe that, then you're going to hell. and finally, as we're leaving, the guy grabs my arm and he says, "john, john, i love you, but you've got to accept jesus, you've got to do it!" he's getting tears in his eyes- he's so afraid that i'm going to walk out of his building and not get it. and he follows me up on it with books, you know, religious tracks and tapes he'll send me of sermons, and he's even on email. you know, we've got our fundamentalists out there- well, they'd be the first, you know, to use the technology. but he's keeping track of me- you know, he wants to make sure if i'm up on my reading and i get it, because he's so afraid that anybody that isn't inside that circle, they're going to hell.
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and i don't know, you know, it's just he's so genuine. yeah? >> there's just so much to say. first of all, hell is going to be really crowded that's the first problem, because they're going to have this nice little elite group up there. after watching him, i thought, the man must be so comforted to be so right, while the rest of us are so wrong. >> yes! oh, that's the feel you get. >> i mean, just absolutely. and then i do have a question. what was his explanation of, you know, why are there different christian religions, then, if his is the only right one? and why do the doctrines- >> satan! satan is out there, you know- i mean, the only thing worse than a 35,000-year-old ascended master is a presbyterian. and that's no slap on them; that's the attitude. mainstream christianity is even worse, because it's moving people, you know, away from the true thing. let me get chris and helen, because i saw you first, and then susanna, and then we'll take you.
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>> he spoke about reincarnation and actually rising from the dead. as a religious studies professor, could you speak a little more on that, like from- because i don't know. i don't know. that's always been a key question of mine is where does heaven come in, in some of these religions, and is it a concern, is it not a concern; sometimes it is, sometimes it's not? >> well, yeah, yeah. see, i think the point he's trying to make and the juxtaposition is it's his turnaround on eastern religion- you know, that's his put-down. he says that if you got a reincarnation, you've got no physical death and resurrection- that's what he's saying. so he's saying you can't have one or the other, because that's everything in his mind- you can't have one or the other; you know, you've got to have one thing. you can't, you know, cross boundaries, because that's the mind set. so what he's saying there is that if you're going to be reincarnating, then the physical death of the body doesn't count.
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i mean, reincarnation would completely, in his mind, undercut the unique death and physical resurrection of jesus, which seems to be at the heart of what he's talking about. >> is christianity the only religion that professes re-life- >> physical resurrection? >> in this format, that makes it incredibly unique- when we're looking at that kind of a physical format, with a vicarious atoning. helen. >> yeah, i want to make sure everybody knows that all baptists aren't fundamentalists because my mother and father were both baptist ministers and they were modernists and liberals. and one of my father's favorite quotes from the pulpit was, quote, "he drew a circle that "shut me out- heretic, "rebel, a thing to flout. "but love and i had "the wit to win; "we drew a circle that took him in." end quote. >> i'm so glad you mentioned
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that, helen, because sometimes these things slip by and if people don't have a little bit more background- i'll put that in the study guide, by the way. but how true. i mean, the baptists are so open-minded, actually, on doctrine that they're, you know, you have two baptists together arguing doctrine, you've got three opinions. you know, there's so many different kinds of things and they tend to form sects and split and split and split again. susanna? >> i think that i didn't have a huge problem with what we saw. you know, i think the things he quoted as, you know, hard-line doctrine or dogma for his faith group are things that most christians probably hold true- i think. so in that sense, i guess where he would get in trouble with me is that he ruled other people out. but ... uh - oh, i had a more important point even. but here's another one i'm going to do until the real one comes along, and that is, too, along with him, i have a problem giving the 35,000-year-old master and ramtha equal stature with christianity, buddhism, hinduism.
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i mean, you name any of these others, the earth based religions and so forth, i have a hard time considering them in the same category- with the others, i really do. and so, you know, that said, i guess- i guess that's all i have to say right now. >> but you know, that's a good point in its own right, and just so no one gets confused looking back on our ramtha class, my instinct and what, you know, i found very inspirational is that you could kind of put yourself at the start of a new religious movement. you know, we're talking about religions with millennia behind them when we're speaking, of course, buddhism, christianity. that's not a place we want to enter into comparisons- i believe you're quite right there- but that impulse is what we were looking at. now i notice that i didn't get to some folks, and we will, but in the interest of getting on to a very interesting piece that i wanted to share with you here about doctrine and interpretation- and i mentioned it to chris
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in the last class- on the book of revelation, which, as chris said- i forget exactly what you said- but this is a very unusual book. and it is, it's an extraordinary book, but it's one that has some amazing implications because of the interpretation of it, and in some cases, it can be- it can have violent results. and i wanted to share that with you and look at some current things, and also talk about theodicy once again- or those, back to doctrine, bringing answers to death suffering and change. anyway, when we look at the book of revelation- and here we're going back, what's the cultural context, what's going on here? - we can think of apocalypticism. what we're seeing, an apocalyptic element- this is a literary form- but it can be many things, but in a nutshell, it's visions of the end time . i don't know if you remember back to the eschatological myths, but they're visions of the end time, revealed by god, usually through chosen prophets-
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in the case of revelation, it was john of patmos. so first off, we've got to get ahold of our apocalypse. sometimes people think of apocalypse and armageddon in the same breath- not really. the apocalypse is the revealing of the secret about the end time. now this other interesting word i mentioned before- theodicy. a theodicy is a literary form or a prophetic form or whatever you, but also a myth that explains the existence of evil in a world that's supposed to be good; it explains evil and suffering. the key one, the key challenge for christianity- and we're in christianity in this class- is if god is all good, and god is all powerful, where does evil suffering or death suffering and change come from? well, an apocalyptic theodicy is what we find in revelation. a religious apocalyptic theodicy is an explanation which- you know, revelation is the book of revelation- of a great cosmic conflict.
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and what this does- you've got to take it in this context. it's written around the year '90 or '92 of the common era in the first century- the christian community is brand new and it's in turmoil. it's just beginning to break the umbilical cord with judaism. roman persecution is intense. anger by the jews, who haven't accepted christianity- tensions within that community. a very difficult time. competition, still, with the roman mystery cults. so what is this religion meant to do? it's meant to bolster christian spirit in the face of martyrdom. so an apocalyptic theodicy- a religious one- says, "yes, you're suffering. yes, it hurts. yes, change is a bummer. but on the cosmic level, this is wonderful, because what's happening in heaven is the beginning of the end time, and that shows that just around the corner, you will be saved, you'll be vanquished."
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so you can bear up under it, and that's what we see. now the branch davidians, this is a classic religious apocalyptic theodicy, running in the minds of david koresh and his followers, in which they're at the end - time, they're on- he literally transfers, as we see in this roll-in; actually, we'll see it here very shortly- the actual plain of armageddon- he transfers it to the plains of texas. and in the minds of his followers, when those atf agents are coming across that field there in february of '93, they're playing right into his religious apocalyptic theodicy. so i found myself out on mount megiddo in israel, overlooking the plain of armageddon. and if you know a little bit of mythology in revelation, the plain of armageddon is where the mother of all battles is going to take place. so in this short roll-in, i'm just kind of musing about how the apocalypse
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in the book of revelation could be reapplied and reinterpreted doctrinally to be an apocalyptic theodicy for people who find themselves suffering in this own culture. did jim jones in fact have an apocalyptic theodicy? something to keep in mind. but let's check the roll-in. >> looking out on the peaceful jezreel valley on the sabbath, we see people coming home from the beach, crops growing in the field- indeed a peaceful scene. but as we've mentioned, this is armageddon- the field of armageddon, where the mother of all battles will take place. now it's an interesting case. we've mentioned that this is a kind of eschatological myth, but with an addition to it, an apocalyptic theodicy. what we mean by a theodicy is an explanation of why it is that humans suffer if god is all good and god's all powerful. and we've spoken about the fact that this myth is drawn from revelation in the bible, in which the explanation is, well, people suffer because an evil force is at lurk in the world,
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but that evil force will be vanquished, will be beaten down by the forces of good and the elect, the faithful that will be taken up into heaven. and so in an odd sort of twist, it's okay to suffer, it's okay to bear under the changes, it's okay to experience even death as a martyr because you know that those kinds of negativities give you a ticket to heaven, and that's what we're seeing in this kind of apocalyptic theodicy. so myth, being defined by doctrine, in this case biblical, and then affecting the belief of behaviors- behavior of believers- and in this case, it's their hope for heaven in the face of a horrific battle on the plain of armageddon. >> now let me keep the ball rolling here. you know, there, i just couldn't resist. you're standing out over the plain of armageddon, it looks so peaceful there and people coming back from the beach there in israel on that day. it was february, but it was actually kind of warm, kind of nice there. but let me put another twist on this. you know, we've talked about
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here religious apocalyptic theodicy. it was very real, very important to the first century christian community. it's a key doctrine and interpretation question. do people have a right- as if anyone worries about rights in the name of religion when they get into the intense conversations- but from a particularly conservative- some might say radically conservative- point of view, the book of revelation provides an apocalyptic map for events that are happening right now. in reality, probably only the audience john of patmos was speaking to could fully understand what those amazing visions are, those beasts and dragons and seven-headed dragons and what have you. do they have the right to take it and apply it here? i don't know. we can see what happened, certainly, in the branch davidian debacle- it was very, very tragic. but i want to introduce you to another kind that recent scholarship, particularly in religious studies, has brought
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up, and you know, just something to observe out in the world in terms once again of the power of belief and behavior. it's a new twist on this, the secular apocalyptic theodicy. do we have groups of intense believers, probably more ideologically based than religiously based, drawing on this? so we might say that a secular apocalyptic theodicy, looking at the graphics, is a doctrinal interpretation that maintains mythic power, but it lacks the supernatural elements. and let me show you how this works. you know, if we can move along in the graphics, very interesting and recent events in our society. it's very possible- well, it's beyond possible- scholars are finding exact proof and the words of someone like a timothy mcveigh, who blew up the oklahoma building, federal building, someone like the unabomber. you can look at the magazine soldier of fortune and find it as a sounding board for a kind
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of secular apocalyptic theodicy. here we have people who are taking the symbols, the visions, the mythic element in the book of revelation and using their own kind of doctrine to redefine it, and then place it on their own turf in order to explain their own suffering and pain, to bolster them up. let me run down this list real quickly and i'll show a last part of the interview out in mount megiddo. tribulation is a key one, if you know your book of revelation- bad times; not that they're okay, but in terms of death, suffering, and change. hey, seven years, it's going to get real nasty. and you got your pre-tribulationists, you got your mid-tribulationists, and you got your post-tribulationists. well, whatever, you're going to be hurting for seven years- but that's okay, because if you're faithful, it's going to get better. the images of dragons, beasts, and the antichrist that you find in revelation, well, particularly people like timothy mcveigh,
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you can find that in the unabomber's writing, this becomes the united states government. and i don't think anybody would have any fault with that one, would they now? no, we can actually see the seven-headed dragon: one head being the atf, the fbi, the justice department, you know, the irs. yeah, that's right up there; that's the antichrist. this is the way it's going- the government, it becomes the antichrist. armageddon, then, is not a plain in israel- you know, koresh literally took it to texas- but it's right here. the united states is armageddon; this is where the mother of all battles is going to take place. babylon, the whore, the harlot of babylon in revelation- if you haven't looked at the book, you kind of have to go back and look at some of these images- but that's corrupt, materialistic, secular humanism, multiculturalism, globalism, the whole mishmash that says everybody belongs. uh - uh. only good christians
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in that interpretation, but people who believe in the american way belong. you know, you get that feeling in militia groups. the messiah doesn't tend to be a single person, but more the messiah of self-survival- the community, the compound. remember ruby ridge? some of these christian identity movement compounds where they're hunkered down there- you know, you get your food, you get your guns, you hunker down, and self-survival becomes the way, and it becomes the way of redemption. so it's through that kind of self-survival that you see redemption. yeah, sure, susanna. >> i was just going to throw in that i think president kennedy said- and he may have been quoting thomas jefferson or benjamin franklin- i know franklin said that when you find yourselves choosing security over freedom, you end up with neither one. the other quote that i was starting off with though was he said- great. this is not my day. >> first your memory goes - >> if you make peaceful
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disagreement or revolution impossible, then you make violent revolution inescapable. and i think that is maybe more where some of these groups are coming from, where they begin to feel that they have no influence. whether they vote, i don't know, but this is their response to feeling that they have no power, that all it all belongs, you know, to something or somebody else. and that's another place where you can get the same mentality. >> it is. in fact, the more intelligent people within the government community are beginning to realize that you have to invite these people into the discussion, because once you ostracize them, you see how that sets up your apocalyptic theodicy- you're outside, you start with violence. that proves them. i mean, with koresh, over and over again, everything the government did was something he predicted. >> you're right. in the beginning you hear on public tv, the fbi or whoever were out there were tired of waiting- they'd been there long enough, several days, you know.
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oh, well, if they had been smart, and people who know about dealing with groups like this would say, "you wait. and it doesn't matter how long it takes- you wait." they couldn't do that, and it was too bad. >> and the tragedy occurred. the last symbol that they co-opt- and then i'll just show you this last small piece of the mount megiddo monologue, i guess you'd call it- millennium. the millennium itself becomes the- you know, successfully surviving this tribulation, so when the perceived evil- one can imagine the christians in the first century viewing the roman empire, "we're suffering, but it will crumble because it's evil in the great cosmic battle, filters down and is mirrored in the earthly battle, and then all will be okay." but let's- the last piece of my, you know, musing, as you would, on the mount, relates specifically to this kind of an idea of how an apocalyptic myth,
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whether you believe in it or don't believe in it, and here, doctrine, ethic, social dimension, whether you believe in what they're thinking in the minds of a timothy mcveigh or the person that blew up the abortion clinic, do you see how that kind of power of belief can come in and impact on the social dimension. so, interview. >> there's another lesson we can learn as we sit here on the ruins of mount megiddo and look out at the fields of armageddon, where the mother of all battles will take place, and that's the power of religious ideas. now we try to make the case in beliefs and believers that religious truth is extremely important to believers inside the faith community. but from a religious studies perspective, we're not so much interested in religious truth but the power of religious ideas. now if you're sitting there in the classroom or at home taking this course and you think, "armageddon, the end of the world?
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i don't believe in these ideas. these can't possibly have any effect on me." well, here we get a strong lesson on belief and behavior. one from the religious perspective, a kind of a religious apocalyptic theodicy that draws on the myth of armageddon, will be found in the terrible tragedy of the branch davidians in texas several years ago. david koresh, the leader of the group, transformed- we can't say literally- but he took armageddon and laid it down in the fields of texas, so that when those government troops came across, they weren't government troops; they were the antichrist. and the violence that ensued, it's as though the government troops walked into his own apocalyptic nightmare and the violence was terrible, and of course, the tragedy in that almost all members of the group died in that fire. so that's a religious apocalyptic theodicy. now on the other hand- and this is even more tragic- we have what we might call a secular apocalyptic theodicy- people in groups who take the armageddon idea, transfer it to a country
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like the united states, but rearrange the players in the game, and let me tell you a very disturbing one. part of the motivation for timothy mcveigh to blow up the federal building in oklahoma clearly, clearly came from him drawing on the apocalyptic myth. how that works is instead of the antichrist being some demonic religious being, the antichrist for timothy mcveigh, militia groups, patriot groups, white supremacist groups, that's the united states government. and their idea is the antichrist is the attempt for the united states government to bypass the constitution and take away their rights. so what does he do? a dangerous thing in the secular apocalyptic theodicy- he says, "i can bring on armageddon, because after armageddon becomes paradise. i'll survive it, so i'll initiate it. how will i initiate it? i strike at the belly of the beast." and so he puts that bomb in the truck outside the building, and hundreds of innocent people
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die- who may or may not have believed in the apocalyptic myth, but armageddon came to them that day. >> see, this is an incredibly complex set of ideas that we're mixing together, but you know, you can begin to get the feel here, that okay, a religious apocalyptic theodicy- and we're not- you know, we can take revelation, but there's been many, many, many of them down through the ages. i mean, it's wonderful- well, it's not wonderful, it's scary, actually- to read about some of the upheavals around the time of the great plagues in europe in medieval times, where people had to explain the plagues. and who suffered in that one? in most cases, as usual, it was the jews and women. but the idea here is, okay, we can see a religious one, but this nation is so biblically based on one hand and draws so much power from that particular christian sacred text, and at the same time is incredibly
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biblically illiterate. and what i mean by that is they don't get the cultural context. and i find that so often, that the bible- you know, when we listened to pastor stowe talk about the inerrancy of the bible, taking it literally, that this is what you must know, well, then, that's okay, but where do you go with that? i mean, who is taking it in what way literally? well, what we're finding when we begin to look at some of these more radical groups is there's a whole undercurrent, a whole network. and you know, susanna put it well, they're ostracized, they're alienated, they're not invited to the party, they're not conversant in the social issues of the time- they're being pushed aside, and so they've built a whole culture based on an apocalyptic theodicy. but where are they going to get it from? well, it's in their brains from their upbringings that have tended to come from some sort of christian background, and the book of revelation, as chris mentioned early on, is so powerful that even if you weren't in sunday school,
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it finds its way into any situation when marginalized people feel they are suffering, they're looking for hope, and they're looking for an explanation. and so that's some of the scary thing. in addition, that last comment, that there's a lot of tradition where people think, "i can start the tribulation going." that's where it gets really scary. it wasn't in the united states, but the japanese group that put the poison in the subway, helter skelter, with charles manson- the idea that i'll go out and do some heinous act, and that violence will, you know, bring it on. but chris, i saw your hand early on- fire away. >> you ended so well with that last roll-in that it's really hard to go anywhere from there, because it was just, it was really neat. >> thanks. >> but what i was going to talk about is that these groups,
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and the reason why this course is so, so fundamentally important for someone my age, and someone everyone's age, is because it's really, really easy to get mixed up. and i think you need a liberal arts education, you need a broad-based world view, and you need to see behind the motives and behind what is clearly seen. we need to look at identity and relationship. we need to look at beliefs equals behavior- beliefs and believers equal behavior. we need to look at the things that motivate people to do what they do, because they do affect us, whether we believe that or not, and i thought what you had to say was extremely important. >> well, chris, you know, what you had to say is going to get you a hundred dollar check, because praise, praise- no, i mean, i'm with you,
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and i know it's very heartfelt for you to say that, and it's exactly what i feel about a course like this. in the sense of the bible in particular, i mentioned again that i teach it, i enjoy it, but i'm also frightened at what i learn because i recognize the incredible power in a sacred text such as the bible and how- to use our terminology- it defines identity, it defines relationship, and doctrine, bringing ethics into a social dimension. and yet it worries me that people aren't aware of how important cultural context really is in the case. jamie, let me get you in here. >> yes, in 1950, i was a student at depaul university, which was a catholic university. i wasn't catholic, but you had to take certain courses, and i got the shock of my life, being raised in a fairly fundamentalist baptist church, when the priest conducting the class, the religious class, said- and i can quote- "the bible is a book of history and nonhistory,
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of fact and of fiction." i almost fell out of my chair. i'd never heard that before. >> you know, believe it or not, that we are down once again to less than a minute. i mean, it just, it goes so fast. let me tie this up, you know, if i can. well, why tie it up? we're headed into the ethical dimension next. actually, we're headed into islam- you know, we're going to be looking at islamic teachings and again asking islam to help us understand doctrine. but the key underlying point in this class and the previous one with jonestown- and chris's comment was also a very helpful way to kind of end this class- that hey, folks, you know, we're not just- you know, it's just not hanging out getting humanities credit or three units of credit. we have to pay attention to religion- it can't just be a privatized thing in a free society. maybe it was okay when vastly everybody was protestant or something, you know, 150 years ago. but as we become more
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religiously diverse, as we see more pressures on people, we are going to see more extreme kinds of religious behavior. so that's the power of religious belief, and we'll keep on it in the next class, looking at islam.
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